The daytime is the worst.
All my friends are at work.
I am at home.
I stare at job boards. I apply. I call. Any news? Any openings?
Maybe it’s a special day where I’ll get a form letter rejection via email.
And, oh, look at that inbox: The only job I managed to get an interview for since the old shop discarded me writes to tell me they went another way.
My self-esteem is crushed out like like a cigarette butt in an ashtray.
The summer is nice.
I go to the pool on the days my spine doesn’t feel as if it is being twisted like the handle of a black pepper grinder.
But it is August. The days grow shorter.
It feels like my feet are nailed to the floor while time hurtles forward. Everyone else moves on with their lives. I’m stuck like a wind-blown reed.
I know I’m not alone. I’m one of nearly 170,000 unemployed Iowans and as many as 30 million unemployed Americans.
But the days are lonely. There is nowhere to go. There are no people to socialize with.
I never married. I’m too hard to get along with. There’s too much about my mind and body that is incompatible with companionship.
That is for the best. I feel like I fail myself every day I don’t get a job. I don’t know if I could take the strain of failing a wife or children.
Sometimes I allow the madness into the house. I turn on the news. It isn’t really news anymore. Maybe it never was. It’s just partisan sniping designed to make people angry and afraid.
Anger and fear are primal emotions. They motivate you to keep watching and keep checking for status updates. The news, as it is these days, is poison that we drink like Busch Light.
I let the news-cancer in for a few moments to try and glean facts from the cacophony of misinformation. Will the government pass a stimulus? Will they put aside their pettiness and petulance long enough to help the 30 million suffering?
The answer ranges from the negotiators are “far apart” to “close to a deal.” The truth is the reporters and the commentators don’t know a damn thing.
But they have to update websites.
They have to broadcast.
They have to spin.
They have to build their brand.
The thought of the state of the trade I gave so much of my life to fills me with bile, rage and anguish.
So I turn away and wait for happy hour.
I don’t mean the bar.
Happy hour in unemployment runs from 4 p.m to 6 p.m., when my friends end their workdays. I can call. They can text. They chat.
I call my friend in Reno. We chat by video. She isn’t much for phone talk. She indulges me for a few minutes each day.
I call my friend in Urbandale. We used to eat dinner once a week. I haven’t been able to see her since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
I call my friend in Memphis. He’s my best friend. The pandemic intensifies his work stress.
Soon, dinnertime comes for friends.
And the silence falls.
Families tend to children and household tasks.
Bedtime arrives for older families.
The night grows old and gives way to the small hours of the morning.
This is the best time.
Everyone is asleep. I stay awake. I watch old TV. “Hill Street Blues” and “Miami Vice” are favorites. Sometimes I watch cartoons, “The Transformers” and “G.I. Joe.”
They remind me of the days before adult responsibilities, when play was work and the worst part of the day was being sent to bed early or eating pickled beets.
I stay awake while everyone sleeps. I am calmest during these hours. It’s odd, but when the silence falls on the day, this is when I feel most a part of my community.
We are mostly idle in these hours. I am awake to savor the unity, even if no one else realizes it but me.
Soon the sun will squeeze through the vertical blinds and lay bright diagonal lines across my carpet.
The workday begins. Friends rub sleep from their eyes and go to jobs. I check the job boards. I apply for a few jobs. Then I take a long nap and let the world go by without me.
It’s the only way I can take it.
Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.
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